Despite the fact that the visiting Dutchmen were dealing with the pressures of exams over the course of the week, Union goaltender Kris Mayotte said that playing hockey gave the team a welcomed break and that competing in Lynah Rink was a unique experience.
“It’s a good atmosphere,” Mayotte said. “If you can’t have fun in this building, then you shouldn’t be playing hockey anyway.”
On Friday night, Mayotte aced the test which came in the form of the Cornell hockey team, as the goaltender made 32 saves, leading his team to a 2-1 win over the Red.
Coming off a 6-1 loss to Dartmouth a weekend ago, No. 5 Cornell (4-3-0, 3-2-0 ECACHL) looked rejuvenated from the get-go, and controlled the majority of the game. However, with a hot goaltender and two goals in the span of 18 seconds, Union (6-4-1, 3-2-0) handed the Red its second-straight defeat.
“I think that we played pretty solid, created a lot of scoring chances and give credit where credit is due,” said Cornell head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “Their goaltender played phenomenal today and the kid made a lot of big saves.”
Cornell dominated the majority of the first period on both ends of the ice, outshooting the Dutchmen 17-4 in the frame. But, it still found itself down a goal by the end of the first 20 minutes. The Red were handed a golden 5-on-3 power play opportunity with less than 12 minutes left in the period after Union was given a two-minute minor for too many men on the ice, before Bryan Campbell was called for holding 29 seconds later. On the ensuing man-advantage, senior Matt Moulson cycled the puck to sophomore Sasha Pokulok, who skated into the slot and blasted a shot which was deflected off a Union player past Mayotte and into the net.
However, Union would later respond by scoring two goals within 18 seconds. After freshman Jared Seminoff was called for interference, with 6:31 left in the first, Jonathan Poirier passed the puck to a wide-open Brendan Milnamow, who was at the right point. Milnamow skated towards junior goaltender David McKee and ripped a slapshot which made its way just inside the left post.
As the goal was being announced over the PA, the Dutchmen struck again. Sloppy puck-handling on the right side of the Cornell net and the forechecking of Union’s Jake Schwan forced a bad pass, which A.J. Palkovich picked up. Palkovich skated across the face of goal and backhanded in a shot on McKee’s glove side.
“Anytime it goes 1-1 – you want to come respond the right way and not let the quick one in, and obviously that’s [not] what happened,” Schafer said.
The Red had a number of chances to even the score, but Mayotte, who has twice been named the league’s goalie of the week this season and has a .942 save percentage and a 1.57 goals against average in five previous games against Cornell, was in top form, making huge saves including stopping sophomore Raymond Sawada on the doorstep to preserve Union’s lead.
“He’s played like the best goalie in the country, there’s no doubt about that,” said Union head coach Nate Leaman. “With our young [defensive] corps – we’re going to make mistakes. We knew that coming into this year, Mayotte had to step up for us to try to hold us in there until those [younger] guys got their feet wet.”
Missed opportunities seemed to be the theme for the Red throughout the game. Despite the fact that Cornell controlled much of the play, entered the second period with over two minutes left on a power play off a Olivier Bouchard double minor for contact to the head, high sticking and tripping, and even had a 52-second 5-on-3 advantage with 18:31 left in the frame, Mayotte and the Dutchmen kept the home team at bay.
“We should have shot more,” Pokulok said. “[Mayotte] was making some nice saves. We were trying to make the cute play too much – We should have crashed the net harder.”
Towards the end of a Union power play with a little more than 13 minutes left in the second period, junior Mark McCutcheon found senior Cam Abbott wide open down low, but Mayotte again made the close-range save.
McKee did not have much to do on the night, making 11 saves. Meanwhile, Cornell continued to press into the third period, but Mayotte was up to the task, stopping a huge one-timer from Seminoff with a little more than nine minutes left in the game.
Cornell desperately tried to find the equalizer, as it pulled McKee with around 1:30 left in the game. However, despite keeping the puck in Union’s zone, the Red could not find the back of the net with the Dutchmen’s defense holding stout for the remainder of the evening.
The team focused on the basics in practice after its loss to Dartmouth and Schafer switched up his lines – changes which included putting senior Cam Abbott on the top line with Moulson and junior Byron Bitz and inserting freshmen Ryan Kindret and Taylor Davenport into the lineup. But, in the end, the team’s effort and modifications were not enough.
“As a coach, I ask them to lay it on the line and work extremely hard and that’s what they did today,” Schafer said.
Archived article by Brian Tsao
Sun Assistant Sports Editor